Last year, when Inside Out Productions’ Mike Mizrahi and Marie Adams directed WOW for the first time, they were a little nervous that their ideas would get in the way of the garments.
“The garments are the heroes of the whole thing; we create the work, the platform for them to walk on,” Mizrahi says. “So you don’t want to fight that.”
As a result, the husband and wife team treaded a little cautiously, going for sepia, neutral or solid backdrops. But this year, Mizrahi says, things will be different. They understand the genre better, the lighting, and the challenges of the space – so the 2016 show will see the pair notching things up.
They plan to take bigger risks and develop more audacious visuals to support the works, and they know now how not to upstage them.
Mizrahi and Adams have staged some of the most spectacular theatrical productions for some of the biggest brands in the world, including Louis Vuitton, David Jones, and the Rugby World Cup. For WOW, they’re coming up with a script based on the competition’s seven sections, aligning their ideas to each mood, theme, and design brief, creating a world for the garments to inhabit.
Last year’s inspiration came from two artists they’ve long admired: Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison, New York fine art photographers whose subdued, monochromatic and melancholic work features both carnival and apocalyptic flavours.
“There were loads of ideas in their work which helped us create theatrical scenes,” Mizrahi says. This year, their muse is New Zealand artist Reuben Paterson, whose works merge Maori culture with glitz and shine. That’s about the only hint they can give for 2016, Adams says.
“Last year was very sepia and almost nostalgic … [this year] it’s exotica, highly coloured, sparkly and glittery.”
She says drawing on Paterson’s vibrancy is a reaction to last year’s nervousness. “Because that was fairly monochromatic, we did think ‘Wouldn’t it be great to just pop with colour?’”
How do they get from muse to show? Mizrahi says they might see just one motif in one piece of art to trigger a wave of inspiration for a scene. The actual creative process, particularly between a couple married for 34 years, is difficult to describe. “It’s like pulling on a string,” he says. “We’ve worked together for so long that it’s kind of like ping-pong.”
Adams often comes up with a skeleton of an idea first, and then they build on it together. It takes a lot of time, thinking, talking – and arguing. “I pity the people who work with us actually,” Mizrahi says with a laugh. “It’s very hard because we’re a husband and wife team so we literally have domestics.”
They are, of course, passionate consumers of art, and everything they see and hear feeds whatever they’re working on at the time. They’re already noticing that a recent trip to LA is infusing this year’s WOW show.
“We get very influenced by going to see galleries, artworks, installations, and films, and we can have long conversations about why something works and why it doesn’t,” Adams says. Despite their varied contracts – from high art to the Warriors – their own work is always about visual storytelling.
And WOW, Mizrahi says, is a phenomenon for which they have “enormous respect”. After running their own small-scale theatre company in New Zealand, they know exactly how difficult it is to see a show thrive in a difficult arts environment. He points out that the 55,000 people who went to see WOW last year is like “all the other art forms poured into one”.
“To do your own work, and stay true to your work, and to have that grow like WOW has done is hard in this country,” Mizrahi says. “There’s not serious funding given to the arts; it’s incredibly difficult.
“It’s truly unbelievable and to be part of it has been really good fun for us.”